Man captures time in a bulb

Local clock and watch connoisseur Elmer Westerman had his own bright idea when it came to making unusual timepieces.

?My hobby has always been clocks and watches,? Westerman said. ?I thought one time, ?If people put boats in bottles, why not attempt to put a clock in a light bulb???

That?s right. Westerman, who has lived in Hillsboro 15 years after living in the Chicago area for 30, has found a way to build a two-faced clock inside an 1,000-watt light bulb. This project has been 17 years in the making.

?When I was in the Chicago area, I spent time riding the train from our home in the suburbs to downtown Chicago,? Westerman said. ?So I sketched things, made initial drawings and so forth and in fact started on it in 1994.

?So I was on track with sketches and things to figuring out how to get this inside a light bulb because there?s a one inch in diameter hole that everything has to fit through.

?That?s when I determined it was feasible.?


He finally managed it, Westerman said, by rolling the clock dials to fit through the narrow neck of the light bulb. The dials then sprang back into shape once inside the bulb.

Despite the fact that Westerman has been carefully planning this project for years, it was only this past month he decided it was time to put it all together.

Westerman said it was quite a trick trying to find a proper light bulb.

?After visiting almost all of the tall buildings in downtown Chicago, in an effort to find a 1,000-watt light bulb, I found that most of the tall buildings had converted to more energy efficient lighting,? Westerman said. ?That is, except for the Lyric Opera House.?

Westerman became friends with the ticketmaster, who was eventually able to supply him with the needed size of light bulb.

?I like to do something different and unique,? he said.

The light bulb clock isn?t the only unusual timepiece in Westerman?s possession.

He built a clock in the shape of a lighthouse, made from stained-glass. A light flashes in the top and the dome rotates to show the time.

Westerman also built a bookend clock by cutting a mantel clock in two. Each half of the clock face is set to show the correct time, no matter how many books are placed in between.

That clock took first place as the most unusual clock in the national Klockit contest, sponsored by a leading supplier to clockmakers.

Westerman also owns watches from the 1700s and a chronometer used in World War II.

His first forays into clockmaking and repair work began when his wife?s uncle gave him a car clock that the local repair workers said was not worth fixing.

?I?went to the library and checked out a book,? Westerman said. ?I determined what must be wrong, and I repaired it and it?s still running today.?

Westerman?s interest in making and repairing timepieces, however, goes much further back.

?My dad took a pocketwatch to the local watch repairman, and Mr. Timmerman only had one arm,? Westerman said. ?And he would repair pocketwatches. He had an apparatus set up so he could operate the vices and so forth.

?He would jokingly say, ?Well, when you?ve got two hands, one of them gets in the way.? He did a great job, and I guess it sort of gave me an interest in it.

?I thought, ?If he could do it with one arm, maybe I could do it.??

Although he has had extensive experience repairing and making timepieces, Westerman said the light bulb clock is probably the one most meaningful to him.

?It was a genuine challenge,? he said. ?Actually trying to determine how I would get a circular dial through that hole.?

What will be Westerman?s next project?

?I like to do things that are out of the normal,? he said. ?I?ll probably try to find some other challenge.?

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